Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sims 4 Creators Camp from a Builder's Perspective

There is so much to talk about regarding The Sims 4, so I tried to organize my thoughts under different topic headings. I will update this post with photographs as soon as they are made available (should be later today).

Build Mode

Lots

There is a maximum 50 x 50 lot size. This doesn't necessarily feel constrictive to me, though, as I still managed to build a massive sprawling mansion with a hedge maze English garden. You can bulldoze the entire lot from the top menu. You can also select the entire home, and move and rotate it on the lot from the top menu. The neighborhood view has what I think is a very beautiful pencil sketch appearance with the homes and lots rendered in color as you mouse over them. It's kind of neat to see that pencil sketch become more elaborate as you progress through building your home.



Walls and foundations

Walls can be drawn individually, as many of us did in The Sims 3, but it's very easy just to place a general room shape into your building structure and drag the walls to where you want them to be. Building in this method took me a while to get used to, but it is very fluid and dynamic with the floor plan changing and accommodating to your modifications. It's very easy to select a room and move it at will. It's also very easy to select and remove individual walls or change them to railings or fences.

Walls come in three different heights, and there are window and door assets to match the higher wall heights. The wall heights are adjustable for each level of a building so you can have a tall ground floor, medium height middle floor, and standard height top floor or any other combination. There are eight different foundations heights, and as many of you know, the foundation can be placed or removed easily at any point while building. Wall and foundation heights are applied to the entire lot (wall heights applied to everything on a particular level, not the levels above or below), so it's currently impossible to have separate buildings on the lot with and without foundations or with different wall heights on the same level.

The wall paints and textures are really nice for the most part. The woods and tiles, in particular, look very nice in the light with the reflective qualities they have. It seemed like the wallpaper colors, in general, came in your basic off-white or cream color and your primary colors--blue, red, and yellow. Wallpapers (whether for the entire wall or above woodwork or tile) come in your general damask, stripe, and flat patterns. There are a few floral and abstract star patterns as well. If your general color palette is cream, red, blue, and yellow, that's great. If you're looking for some less-than-basic colors and patterns, like purple, animal print, plaids, etc, you might be out of luck. That's one of the big constraints we are left with not having Create a Style, but I will say that each of the wall patterns has numerous presets from which to choose.

One peculiar thing I noticed, and I'm not sure why this is--foundations are not painted the same way as walls above them. There are a number of foundation patterns from which to choose, but these do not match the wall patterns and colors. This might seem trivial, but it can be a bit of a headache. I noticed this when trying to match stair siding with the foundation--the stair siding is painted with the available wall textures and colors, while the adjacent foundation is painted with the mismatched foundation colors and textures. I'm not sure why they don't let us paint the side of the foundations just as we paint the rest of the walls.


Another peculiar thing happens occasionally with wall patterns that have a particular edge feature. The game is programmed to place those edges on the ends of your walls, but we noticed that the game detection of those edges is sometimes a little off. In The Sims 3, these types of walls came in a set of three with a center wall and left- and right-edged walls. Now, these walls appear to be collapsed into a single wall pattern to select and depend on the game to detect your wall edges. A solution to this, if we find we want to manipulate the edges differently, might be giving builders the ability to click on a particular wall section and have the edges toggle left, right, and off on that particular section with each mouse click.

One thing to watch out for when changing wall heights is disappearing objects! Windows and other objects placed at higher levels of larger walls may vanish when you lower the wall height. Moreover, be on the lookout for other bizarre things happening like cabinets lowering to really cramped heights over their respective countertops. I found that most, if not all, changes will revert with the undo button. The danger is not knowing everything that is altered or vanished, proceeding with your building, perhaps returning to live mode, and not noticing these changes until it is far too late to undo everything.



Fences

The fencing options seem varied enough to achieve a number of different styles, both modern and classic/traditional. AND we can now have curved fences! These curved fences allow for wonderfully creative patios, decks, and upper level floors with railings.

Fencing can be placed with ease. You can draw in a fence as you would in The Sims 3. But you can also convert a wall to a fence with the click of a button. And you can change the style and color of the fence with the click of a button as well.

How fencing looks where it meets the foundation of the house depends on which direction you draw the fencing. If you start drawing the fence from the foundation, a base will be added to the fence equal to the height of the foundation. If, on the other hand, you start drawing the fence from the ground level to the foundation, it will stay on the ground level without an elevated base.

Spandrels

With fencing come new options that we've never had before to decorate the ceiling--spandrels. I like to think of these as fencing along the ceiling. You can achieve a variety of neat looks with spandrels. I used them, for instance to divide a large room into distinct zones. I can imagine the designers taking this to an even higher level if they can translate spandrels into ceiling beams and coffered ceilings. Right now, spandrels need to be placed above fencing. I could not figure out a way to draw them in by themselves. However, it's very easy to delete the fence afterwards with the click of a button, and your spandrels will remain.



Friezes

These are beautiful decorative options for the two larger wall heights, and they can be placed with ease--with just the click of a button.

Columns

Column placement is much easier and more intuitive in The Sims 4. No longer will you need the Move-Objects-On cheat to place columns within fences and railings. And you can achieve even more decorative options by placing columns within walls so that they partially protrude from the wall. These are called pilasters. You can even delete the portions of the columns on the other side of the wall that you don't want visible, just as you can delete wall and fencing sections, with the click of a button.

I did not see different column heights to span multiple floors, but the columns do adjust with wall height. I expect multistory columns could be added with future expansion packs and patches as they were in The Sims 3

Roofs, ceilings, and floors

Roofing is SO much easier now with The Sims 4. Roofing is quite possibly the most difficult part of many of my builds in The Sims 3. In The Sim 3, my roofs would often change direction against my wishes depending on how large I made them, and I often had to place the roofing in small sections. This made height adjustment super tedious as I had to adjust the height of each section to match the other lest I be left with an unsightly gap in the roof. Now, in The Sims 4, I can place a roof section and drag it out as long and wide as I want it to be. Then, I can raise or lower that entire section of the roof with the click and drag of the mouse.

We also now have the option to add roofing trim along the edges in a wide variety of colors and styles. No more grey roof edges! Floor trims can also be added, and this is a neat way to add accents along the exterior of a house to demarcate the different floor levels.

Eaves--the edges of the roof that hang over the walls--can be adjusted either together or individually (by holding the Shift button). This is really helpful when having different sections of the roof blend together in visually appealing ways.

The curvature of a roof is easily manipulated by dragging a little handle that hangs above the roof. This allows for a lot of flexibility in achieving different roof shapes like pagodas.

Ceilings and the undersides of roofs can't be painted currently in The Sims 4. Ceiling paints didn't come until later in The Sims 3, so I don't see this as a big deal right now. And I hope they will give us the ability to paint the underside or roofs at some point. This would be neat for attic living spaces with sloped ceilings.

One thing I noticed is a problem with roofing obstructing some of the rooms if it is built on the same level as those rooms (for example, a roof tall enough to accommodate living spaces on the same level). In The Sims 3, I believe we never encountered this problem because roofs were not rendered on the same level--only the level above. I don't know if the designers were forced to have the roofs render if built on the same level for some reason--maybe the fewer floors with which we have to work now. However, it seems like the easiest fix for this would be for them to prevent roofs being rendered on the same level as living spaces, just as in The Sims 3. Note that roofs will only be rendered on that level in Walls Up viewing mode, so you will not encounter this issue with Walls Down or Walls Partially Down modes.

In case you don't know this already, we can build on three floor levels maximum now instead of the maximum five levels that we had in The Sims 3. When I think about this, I don't recall ever building a house where Sims conducted their lives on fourth or fifth levels. I almost always had the living spaces on the first and second levels--third levels occasionally. Those fourth and fifth levels for me were usually reserved to build structures using the Constrain Floor Elevation cheat such as chimney stacks, half walls, or frieze-type structures. Now that we have three different wall heights and friezes, I think the three levels doesn't feel so restrictive to me.

Floors can be painted just as we could in The Sims 3, either tile by tile or as uniform flooring for the entire room. Many of the floor patterns are really beautiful and have rich textures such as reflective shiny planks of wood or tile. Floors can only be deleted as an entire room. A theoretical easy work-around to delete smaller sections of floor would be to make a room the size and shape of the desired floor section to be deleted, then delete the walls and floor for that particular section. I ran into a bit of difficulty with this as I deleted the floor for such a room, but the floor re-appeared when I deleted the walls. This seems like a minor glitch, though, that I pointed out to the producers and I'm hopeful will be corrected.




Windows

There are numerous windows from which to choose. There are also windows that fit with the larger wall heights. A wonderful new feature of The Sims 4 is the ability to change the window height. I can't emphasize enough how great this is for a builder. There have been so many times when I've wanted to use a particular window in The Sims 3, but it was partially obstructed by a cabinet or roof. Or I've wanted a small window very low, but it's only very high. Custom content windows were a work-around, but all of the different preset heights for those window sets led to a huge window catalog to sort through. AND adjustable windows and curtains facilitates better curtain, blinds, and shutter fits since many desired window treatments aren't usable in The Sims 3 because they aren't the correct height to match a particular window.


Currently lacking in The Sims 4 from what I remember are super wide windows (3 tiles), stained glass, and multiple tiny pane windows like the wonderful Sir Cunningham window in The Sims 3 base game. 

Doors and Arches

Doors and arches are now combined into a single category with arches appearing below the available doors. There are also different heights to fit with the different wall heights. One thing I noticed is that decorative arches placed on the edges of decks don't automatically render a tiled footprint which needs to be deleted.



Chimneys and Roof Decor

Creators voiced their desire for better chimneys in The Sims 3, and I can tell that the game designer really listened. Chimneys are now distinct design elements from fireplaces. They are placed separately. Fireplaces are still found in Build Mode, but there are a large number of chimneys from which to choose under roof decor in a large number of colors and patterns. This is really wonderful, in my opinion. Keep in mind that these chimneys are ROOF decor--which means you can either place them on the roof or place them on top of a chimney stack that you create yourself with a 2x1 set of walls that you paint as you wish. There are a variety of other roof decor objects as well like vents and air conditioning type units.

Fountains

Fountains and fountain objects are best approached from the fountain tool in Build Mode rather than Sculptures in Buy Mode. The fountain objects are really beautiful. I combined a multitiered fountain with multiple fish sculpture water spouts. And the objects don't just sit on the surface of the water--they actually sit realistically within the fountain water base that you create. Moreover, there are now fountain trims that we can add to the edges of our fountains. Many of the custom fountains in The Sims 3 looked to me like they were "punched out" of the ground. The trims really add a classy touch to the fountains and set them apart more realistically from the surrounding scenery.




Landscaping Plants and Trees

Outdoor plants are also plentiful and seem to be on par with the offerings of The Sims 3 base game. The plants have a very stylized appearance in keeping with the overall feel of the rest of the game. For example, there's a bold purple flowering tree that I can't say I've ever seen in real life. Such plant life certainly makes for a magical fantasy world but may not be suitable for your everyday lot. It's not necessarily a bad thing. It's just different. And it may actually be good if you are going for a fantasy or fairy tale type of appearance for your lot.

Another feature that seems to be gone is the randomization of tree and bush sizes. In The Sims 3, each successive tree or bush was a different size than the previous one, and this allowed for a more varied appearance of our landscapes. The trees and bushes now appear to be uniform, so any variety will need to be achieved by rotating the plants for different perspectives and using the magnification tool (see description of this tool under "Art" and keep in mind that magnified objects don't currently transfer with the lot as magnified).

Rocks

One wonderful new feature of rocks is the ability to choose different colors for the rocks. We're no longer constrained to have just brown or grey versions of a particular rock. The rocks seem to be roughly the same size, which is a bit small. To address this, you can use the magnification tool to achieve a wider variety of rock sizes (see description of this tool under "Art" and keep in mind that magnified objects don't currently transfer with the lot as magnified).

Terrain paints

These are pretty similar to what we had in The Sims 3. 

Terraforming and Ponds

We currently are not able to raise and lower terrain in The Sims 4. Also, you can't create ponds and streams on your lot. This makes for completely flat lots. The surrounding environment has gentle slopes and hills as well as water features with fish life, though, and looks more natural. I imagine the purpose of leaving out terraforming was to prevent problems with routing, object placement, and game play. For instance, kids won't play football in the yard in The Sims 3 unless there is a completely flat large space for them to play. Smartening up the game engine to prevent such conflicts could have addressed this, but this won't be in the base game.

Styled Rooms

Interestingly enough, styled rooms are found in Build Mode, not with the Buy Mode icons. Still, it's incredibly easy to toggle between those different modes. I found the Styled Room catalog pictures extremely helpful as it was sometimes difficult to know all of the decor objects at my disposal and where to locate them. Now, you can find an inspiration room in your catalog, select the entire room to place on your lot or select individual items with which to decorate.

Environmental Effects

The environmental effects are, for the most part, really stunning. Light reflecting off of the water, boats gently gliding by, and sun beams through the trees create a beautiful atmosphere. There also seems to be a number of little treats to explore and discover. I noticed a few dig sites where you can discover gems, time capsules, and treasure maps. You can also discover a pet tree frog in a hollowed out log. 

The times of day cast your homes and rooms in very different shades and hues. Some of these hues are very dramatic and bold and can change the look of your house. In build mode, you can select different times of day to see how your exterior colors and patterns will look.

Buy Mode

Interface

Buy mode objects can be accessed from room categories (e.g. bedroom, bathroom, kitchen) or object categories (e.g. appliances, plumbing, electronics) just as in The Sims 3. The only difference is the addition of styled rooms which can be viewed from Build Mode as described above.

Unlockable Content

There is a LOT of unlockable content in The Sims 4, and that content is now visible in the different Buy Mode categories as well as the stylized rooms. There was unlockable content in The Sims 3 such as the five-star chef refrigerator or the police car, but the content appears to be much more abundant and is now visible. It really motivates you to play the game and try out all of the different career paths.

Appliances

One feature that I absolutely love in the appliance section is stove hoods. There are a number to choose from, and it's neat to have these options in the base game. Peculiar exclusions are the absence of dishwashers and trash compacters. It seems to be necessary to have a trash bin in the kitchen now (instead of a trash compacter, which isn't available). Otherwise, the Sims will route to the nearest trash can on the lot, which may be outside, when they tidy up the kitchen after a meal. Also, there currently are no recycling bins.



Plumbing

These objects are pretty straightforward and very similar to what we had in The Sims 3. It does seem like we have more to choose from, though, considering this is a base game. One minor thing I noticed is with one of the claw-foot tubs--the inside of that particular tub seems somewhat transparent as the adjacent drapery could be seen through its walls in a bizarre way.



Comfort

New categories in this section include desk chairs and love seats as distinct categories from their previous miscellaneous seating and couch sections, respectively. We also have bar stools and benches just as we had previously in the miscellaneous seating section



Surfaces

End tables are now called accent tables, and this category also includes sideboards which didn't come out until much later in The Sims 3. There are a number of beautiful choices. Some interesting new objects include the TV stand. Cabinets and countertops are really interesting as well. It may be hard to notice at first, but if you click on the counters, for example, you will get an expanded window that shows a variety of different design options including angled counters and curved counters. These are super cool! Otherwise, the surface categories are pretty similar to The Sims 3.



Electronics

As described above, we now have a television stand, so televisions are all separate objects from their underlying surfaces. Computers and radios are the other categories. The miscellaneous category includes clocks and fire alarms. There's also a grandfather clock which didn't come until much later in The Sims 3. Notably absent are security alarms. I'm not sure if burglars and kleptomaniacs are a thing of the past now. I also noticed that video game consoles are no longer included to play games on the large screen televisions.



Lighting

The lighting engine is vastly improved from The Sims 3. In The Sims 3, light was cut off between unobstructed floors leaving a sharp line that was unrealistic. This was most apparent at night when the exterior of the house was illuminated. We had to compensate for that by using invisible lights and by fine tuning their individual intensities to mask that unsightly appearance. I've spent literally days trying to counteract light cut-off effects in my builds in The Sims 3 and for my features in SF Magazine.

Light now illuminates the floors above and below if those floors are not obstructed. And the effect is beautiful and very realistic. My heart sang with joy when I first saw my house illuminated at night. Not only is lighting no longer cut off between floors, but it is also no longer cut off between rooms! Light pours into adjacent rooms through archways and illuminates outside walls through windows. The amount of thought put into lighting really took my breath away as I discovered more and more visual surprises like these.

It is also much easier to change the color and intensity of lights. You just have to click on the light in Live mode, and you can choose from a huge selection of colors and use a slider to adjust the intensity. You can do this for the individual light, the entire room, or the entire lot. I almost always use a warm yellow instead of stark white for my lights so that the rooms are cast in an incandescent glow instead of a fluorescent-appearing light. And it's easy to throw in accent colors. For instance, I've been on a colored lamp shade kick recently, and I almost always go for the bold color choice instead of white when possible. Now, I can add a color to the light to mimic the effect of light passing through a particular lamp shade color. OK, I could go on and on about light because it adds so much atmosphere to a build.

There are currently no invisible lights. Photographers and machinima makers will have to use off screen lights to achieve the effects they desire right now.




Recreation and Activities

Musical instruments include guitars, pianos, and violins. These are great for game play and room decor. Logic skill can be attained at the chess table, just as in The Sims 3. There is also a larger 4-seat gaming table. Artistic activities can be pursued at the easel or the woodworking table. There is also a lump of clay to sculpt and mold. Leisurely activities include bars and a number of imaginary things like the virtual reality game machine.



Art

There are a huge number of paintings to choose from, and I didn't even explore the paintings that Sims can actually produce. This is really fantastic, in my opinion, and remember, this is just the base game. I built a huge mansion, and while I usually hate to repeat the art in different rooms, I really didn't have to do that for my home that much even though there were so many rooms.

Art placement is also vastly improved. While we didn't get picture height adjustment until Late Night with The Sims 3, we have it with The Sims 4 base game. AND we can also adjust the picture placement along the horizontal axis as well! This is HUGE for moving pictures out of tight corners into more realistic spots on the wall. Holding the Alt key down while placing the pictures allows for very smooth and gradual fine tuning of picture placement.

Another huge improvement is the ability to resize artwork. Small pictures can be magnified to achieve an even more customized and varied look for our rooms. For instance, I took small posters in the children's room and made them huge but realistic focal points in the room. A grouping of small portraits can become a cluster of magnificent paintings. And the pictures don't seem to be noticeably pixelated with magnification. Right now, the magnified objects don't transfer as magnified once uploaded to the library or gallery, but hopefully those settings will be able to be transferred in the future. That seems like an easy fix. Another minor glitch with magnification is an occasional problem with the shadow of the magnified object staying its original size and not matching the actual magnified object.




Sculptures

There are also a large number of sculptures to choose from, much more than The Sims 3 base game. And the magnification option allows for customization and variety as with the art. For instance, a tiny urn can become a large vase and appear more fitting on a display pedestal.




Mirrors

There are a good number of mirror choices in a variety of styles and colors/textures. Mirrors can also now be placed anywhere on the horizontal axis using the Alt key. Mirrors do not move up and down, however, and this leads to animation issues when the Sim interacts with the mirror. For example, custom content adjustable mirrors in The Sims 3 led to glitches where the Sim sunk into the ground or levitated above the ground if the mirror was lowered or raised.




Plants

Indoor plants are plentiful to choose from, and the magnification tool allows for even greater customization of the plant appearance. I did notice a lack of hanging plants for walls and ceilings. There are two nice window planter boxes, however.




Curtains, blinds, and shades

There are a wide variety of curtains to choose from, and there are curtain choices to fit the larger window sizes afforded by the different wall heights. Moreover, curtains and windows can be shifted on the vertical axis to ensure an optimal fit. This is a huge improvement from The Sims 3 where many curtain assets were useless depending on the windows used.

The curtain colors and patterns are occasionally tough to get to work with an overall design scheme. This is an area where not having Create a Style really hurts. The blue in a curtain might not match the blue in the bedding or upholstery, for example, and this forces the creator to make some difficult choices--sometimes scrapping a curtain or object choice altogether. The textures of the curtains also seem to be somewhat flat--I imagine the developers are likely trying to make them work with as broad of a menu of other objects as possible.




Rugs

Again, there are a large number of rugs from which to choose--many more than offered in The Sims 3. And many of the modern and contemporary rug options are really beautiful and realistic. I'm a little disappointed in the traditional rugs as the textures, patterns, and colors seem somewhat simplified and bland. Rugs are a common focal point for interior designers and rich with color, variety, and texture. I hope we can eventually achieve that in The Sims 4, either with a Create a Style option or a wider variety of patterns and colors from which to choose.

Miscellaneous and Clutter Decor items

There is a new category of Decor items called "Clutter," and this is separated from "Miscellaneous" decor somewhat arbitrarily. I'm not sure if this makes finding objects easier or more difficult as I was often not sure whether a particular object would be considered "clutter" or "miscellaneous."

That said, the number of items in both categories is HUGE considering this is just a base game. Decor for kitchens, gardens, vanities, bathrooms, you name it--there are so many objects to choose from. And the items are beautifully rendered with great attention to detail. I love the crates, for example, with harvestables tumbling out the side.




Storage

We have the standard bookcase, dresser, and miscellaneous storage categories, and the options are plentiful in comparison to The Sims 3 base game. Notably lacking are more one-tile and three-tile bookcases--the are almost all standard two-style widths.

Kids Rooms

The kids room decor items are super cute and abundant to choose from. Some of the toys are small, and others are HUGE. The dollhouses, for example are now almost life size and take up a large chunk of space in the room. Some of the stuffed animals are also super large. Kids rooms are my favorite to decorate because you can really let your imagination run wild. And we have the tools to create some pretty incredible kids rooms.



Garages and Cars

These are absent from The Sims 4 base game. I guess the upside of that is not having the frustration of connecting a garage to a foundation. I hope that when and if cars are introduced, the designers will come up with a novel and intuitive way to connect more easily garages to the existing house structure without cheats. Besides, we don't currently have the CFE cheat even if we wanted to use it.

Create a Style

Many of you know that this has been my personal mission for almost a year now. And I tried to voice that every chance I had during the week at Sims Camp. I was able to speak with Create a Sim producer, Jill Johnson, and Lucy Bradshaw, senior vice president of the Maxis label at Electronic Arts. I wanted to get the producers' perspectives on why the decision was made to eliminate Create a Style, and as I suspected, the underlying reasons centered on gameplay performance, rendering, and save and load times. The designers are also concerned about game stability over time with the addition of expansion packs and other content. The playability of The Sims 3 attests to the degradation of the game experience over time with increasing content and other information the game engine has to keep track of. For example, I own all of The Sims 3 expansion packs, stuff packs, and Store content (yes, I'm addicted!), and it takes me a century to load up my Miscellaneous Decor items and change their styles. I also expressed my feelings (and your feelings) on our feedback forms that were discussed in the feedback session with Rachel Franklin, executive producer of The Sims 4, and Lyndsay Person, senior producer for The Sims 4. Unfortunately, my return flight prohibited me from attending that last-day feedback session, but as I understand it, our concerns were voiced and discussed at length in addition to landscaping. There was even a poll where Rachel Franklin asked the creators which tools they would like the producers to focus on developing next, and a majority favored colors and patterns over terraforming (if they were forced to choose a top priority). I will add that I offered to bribe any and every producer, if necessary, with chocolate and household chores! I'm still holding out hope that we will get Create a Style or something like it in the future as I think it is the true triumph of The Sims 3 and painfully lacking in The Sim 4. That single tool gave us the opportunity to express our creativity in innumerable ways and visions. It gave us the opportunity to have a signature style we could call our own--one that made Chrillsims or Ruthless_KK houses, for example, stand out and speak of the creators that made them.

Cheats

Builders love their cheats, and many are staples among us including Move Objects On (MOO), Constrain Floor Elevation (CFE), and, of course, Motherlode. I used Motherlode quite a bit over the past week, so I can confirm we still have that. It may be increasingly important for those of us who like to live beyond our means because weekly bills are all the more oppressive in The Sims 4. And should you not pay your bills, there won't be a repo man. Failure to pay bills now results in having your electricity and water turned off!

Constrain Floor Elevation is currently not a part of The Sims 4 base game. CFE is certainly a hallmark of many builder's creations like Gissence, Lightside, jisgr8, and Sim Eve. What they do with CFE is truly magical, and I hate to think I will miss out on such creations with The Sims 4. Even if CFE returns, some builders question its utility with only three levels of a house to work with. I hope that the addition of different wall heights and friezes will somewhat soften the blow of losing CFE, but these features will not allow the clever manipulation of architecture to create things like arched or suspension bridges and greenhouses, among other things.

Move Objects On is also notably absent from the menu of cheats. Builders depend on MOO for more realistic object placement and the creation of unique structures. I found landscaping, in particular, very difficult without MOO because I wasn't able to squeeze plants and bushes tightly together as they would appear in naturally in real life intertwined. We were fondly remembering a forum thread where creators shared their ideas for MOO in creating unique designs--a simple example being the combination of a book case and a desk to create a more studious place to work. The designers seemed to appreciate our desire to have MOO return, and I have a feeling it's on their list of priorities for the near future. Fingers crossed!

Photography and Video

Many of the same camera controls will carry over from The Sims 3 into The Sims 4. For instance, you can shift back and forth between camera mode and play mode by pressing Tab. You can also save camera positions by pressing Control + any number between 5 and 9--this allows for five camera positions which can be toggled between by pressing their respective numbers. The time taken for the camera to move between two camera positions is now called DefaultInterpolatorTime instead of Lerp duration, and it's default is now 6 seconds instead of 2. There are also new parameters (at least new to me) to set for the DefaultInterpolatorType including Linear, EasyIn, EasyOut, and EasyInOut. I did not get a chance to play around with these settings, but I'm interested to know how they will influence camera movement.

Lighting is important for photographers, and I discussed that at length above. Of note, there are currently no invisible lights, so any special lighting needs to be hidden off camera if you don't want it to be in the camera shot.

One thing I noticed while taking photographs and video was the persistence of object fading even while in camera mode. This is very frustrating for an interior designer who wants to capture the ceiling lights in a photograph or a videographer who doesn't random trees disappearing with dynamic camera sweeps. I couldn't figure out a way to keep the objects from disappearing from the camera shot. I hope that the designers will allow us to remove object fading.

Game Settings

Edge Scrolling is a wonderful feature in The Sims 3, and it is definitely back in The Sims 4. This allows the camera to shift points of view when your mouse moves to the edge of the screen. I have to say that Edge Scrolling seems to be much less responsive, though, in The Sims 4. It can be very difficult to get better views of the lot boundaries. My hypothesis for this is that we are no longer dealing with an open world, and each lot is treated as a discrete location with loading screens in between. I'm wondering if the game is not providing more mobility with Edge Scrolling simply because there is not enough off-lot territory for the camera to move. Or there is so little off-lot territory for the camera that it only moves into that small amount of space in perceived small increments. I am hoping that this is a minor tweak that can be ironed out with future patches.

Gallery

We can now share not only our Sims and buildings with the online community but also individual rooms. Those creations appear in the Gallery, so there is no longer a need to close the game, go to the Exchange, download content, install it into the game, then reload the game to use it. It all can happen with the click of the mouse button in game. That said, creators were very interested in being able to share our creations with the rest of the world in non-Gallery settings such as our webpages and blogs. Or even being able to make those files downloadable when away from the game. Say, for example, I'm on vacation, but while surfing the web, I see an amazing house that someone has created. It would, of course, be rude for me to load up the game while my loved ones were sipping mimosas by the pool. I would rather just download the file to add to the game later--when my loved ones are asleep!

Music

The soundtrack is AMAZING! I have been listening to one of the Build Mode songs on SoundCloud on repeat. And that's not even my favorite one. The music is filled with tributes to previous installments in The Sims with upbeat and refreshing new features. And a super cool feature of the music is how it changes based on the level of detail in Create A Sim, for example. The big picture scheme has a larger orchestra, and the music hones gradually down to a piano score as you move in for a close-up view of the face. I can easily see myself buying the soundtrack for this game if it's ever available.

https://soundcloud.com/thesimsofficial/build-mode-exclusive-mix

Overall Gameplay

Playing the game is actually really, really fun! The Sims are hilarious, and there are so many novel interactions to explore based on your emotions and personalities. AsiaShaMecca's child Sim, Shagnasty, for example was playful and had a variety of tricks up his sleeve including "Give Fake Bad News." There were so many laugh-out-loud moments, and you can really see the humor and imagination of the game designers shine brilliantly in this game. I know I spend most of my time building in the game, but there is an intense draw in this installment to balance better my game play time and building time. And the unlockable content makes playing the game all the more desirable. 

44 comments:

  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  2. Wow a lot of information :) All this great information makes me want to jump right into TS4 right now and play lol. Thanks again for all the great information

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  3. Thanks so much for an excellent breakdown of features and review! There are so many things I am looking forward to in the game, but especially the build and buy mode abilities. I do hope some of the design elements we have lost will be addressed by the modding community. Overall, thanks to your review, I am very excited to start building and playing the Sims 4!

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  4. Thank you for the in-depth information!

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  5. This is an excellent article on what The Sims 4 has to offer - especially in the way of Build/Buy mode, which is why I bought The Sims originally. A very special Thank You for doing all you could to further the Case for CASt. I have no idea how I will cope without it, so I do hope some form of creating our own colors/textures/patterns returns. I still don't understand the argument regarding CASt creating lag and so forth. My rig was mid-to-top end when I bought it in 2010, but no super computer, for sure. CASt never gave me a moment's problems and I used it on absolutely everything. All of my gameplay was peppered with trips into build/buy/CAS to adjust things with CASt. I am sure that for a while there will be enough to experience and do to be satisfied with game. Its longevity, for me, will largely depend on eventually receiving a customization tool.

    Thanks again for the great article and for being a strong advocate! :)

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  6. This article was great, thank you for the in depth detail of build mode,

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  7. Thank you all so much for your feedback. For anyone interested, I just edited the post to add information on cheats such as MOO and CFE, photography and video, object fading, game settings such as edge scrolling, and sharing content on the Gallery (and feasibility of sharing content elsewhere). I also made some clarifications about wall height adjustment for a lot--those wall heights apply to only one level, and different wall heights can be used for the other two levels.

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  8. Thank you Bill. You really addressed what builders need to know. No MOO is scary since you pretty much have to use it in Sims 3. I reinstalled my games and have been attempting to build without m.o.o. or c.f.e. and it's literally impossible, mostly due to terrain level issues with platforms and the column issues, but I guess that won't be a problem with Sims 4. I do kind of wish they would have fixed those things and kept them instead of just making all terrain level. But as long as the new tools will actually work properly, it might be ok.
    I love the magnification tool idea but if it won't transfer then it will be completely useless, imho. at least useless for those of us who mostly play to share.
    The no CASt is going to be hard to swallow. especially since, like said, the colors they have chosen do not match up to each other well. That will seriously limit us in so many ways. I hope they do fix that. I mean if we were worried about loading times we would not play the Sims, now would we?
    I'm so very excited after reading your lighting section! It sounds wonderful and will save hours and hours of building time for persnickety lighters like us.
    The roofing showing through floors is something that just should have been fixed already...ugh. It was a problem in Sims 3, for me. I spent no telling how long with that mess. How hard can it be to have the roofing detect what is a room or not and then simply not render in that room? Idk.
    About friezes- As you know, I will be starving without my c.f.e. but friezes will suffice if they can be placed on the second level. Did I miss that or am I out of luck?

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  9. Updated with photos which were just released today.

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  10. Thank you so much for this! There's so much good information in here that I couldn't find anywhere else. Not all of it is positive, but for the whole community of builders it's invaluable!

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  11. I love your pictures! Thanks for sharing all that information.

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  12. Thank you for talking to the producers about create-a-style. I hope they are taking our concerns seriously.

    When I played the free Sims 4 CAS demo, I felt like I was playing with my hands tied behind my back -- I couldn't do so many things I wanted to do. I will only feel more limited when I try to build and I am stuck with EA's color choices.

    SimGuru Graham seemed to think it was near impossible for them to add CASt after the base game is out. I hope he is wrong.

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    Replies
    1. He may not wrong.

      Things like CASt should be implemented on base game. I can imagine if they suddenly put CASt on patch or expansion, there will be HUGE update so all build/buy object can be CASt-ed.

      It's gonna be weird if some object can be CASt-ed only because it's deployed before CASt patch.

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  13. Thank you for reading! I do hope they are able to add something like CASt down the road. I can see how it might be difficult as the surfaces of objects seem to be much more complex now. If you look closely at some of the chairs, for example, you'll see little nicks and scratches that give them a worn appearance. So I wonder if that variability along the surfaces might be challenging to recolor or apply patterns and textures. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, though. CASt was the real triumph of The Sims 3, just as the slider-free Create a Sim might be considered the triumph of The Sims 4. Not having CASt in The Sims 4 seems almost like dispensing with the new Create a Sim in favor of the old slider-based model when they come out with The Sims 5 (if they ever come out with it).

    I just uploaded higher resolution photos to this post so you can get a better look at the surface details of the objects. I'm not very tech savvy, so I apologize for the lower resolution photos earlier.

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  14. Bill, I want to thank you for the enjoyable reading. Your attention to detail helped me envision so much more, Your presentation is wonderful , I learned so much. I now have a better understanding of how the game works, before it was so general and only hit the hot spots of how to move rooms and walls. Thank you for breaking down each area and letting us know how it works and what it will or wont do explaining the new features and how it effects the way we build.

    Your time and attention to detail is very much appreciated. You have all the same concerns I do as far as building and creating our own style, I am keeping my fingers crossed. We dont live in a world of limited colors, textures and I dont want be limited in creating for my Sims. Its such an important part of design either interior or exterior it pulls everything together. I spend hours searching for the perfect color, texture or pattern for almost everything I create from Sims to lots.

    Again than you, you did an amazing job we will have to see what the future holds for Sims 4.

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  15. Thank you so much for the feedback! I know it was a long read, and I'm sure I missed some things, but I wanted to describe as much as I could remember and put into writing. It's hard to describe in words what it's like to actually play the game. But it's really fun. The music, the animations, even reading the short object descriptions--it all makes for a really compelling gaming and creative experience. I'd love to know what you think once you try it out. Thanks again for writing.

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  16. So... live mode are sucks, but the build/buy mode is great?

    Now if we can get those 120+ lots on one 'hood as well...

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  17. Just a question. Will we be able to download this masterpiece of a house anywhere? I would love to see what you have done exactly so I can learn and recreate it. Thank you in advance.

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    Replies
    1. I just downloaded the free full version of sims 4 and I was able to recreate the house. :) It is truly a masterpiece.

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